True Films

Koyaanisqatsi


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A mind-tripping impressionistic view of how the collision between nature and technology has given birth to an apolacyspe on earth. Using very innovative (in 1970s) time-lapse footage, the ordinary rythms of civilization are made alive and mesmerizing. Unlike the film Baraka (reviewed here), which later borrowed the same time-shifting and space-scanning techniques to create a prayerful ode to humanity, this documentary despairs about the consequences of our encroaching machinery. It shows we are seduced by the bright flashing lights of the city, while underneath run all kinds of explosions and destruction, captured in slow motion! If you like this surprisingly beautiful distopia, then you should know this is the first of four films by the same director, all similar in design, all ending in “Qatsi,” and all of which get increasingly darker. Setting aside its sermonizing, the film is a wonderful kailoscope of modern life on this planet, for better or worse.

– KK

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Koyaanisqatsi
Directed by Godfrey Reggio
1983, 87 min
$3, Amazon Instant Video rental

Official website

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

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Posted December 30, 2003 at 1:41 pm | comments


Mein Krieg


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In English: My Private War. Home movies shot by six different Nazi youth as they marched toward the Russian front as German soldiers in World War II, some of it in color. They narrate the footage later as older men. What you get is the everyday details of their life then, and how they saw the world, what they found important, or new, and what they were thinking. It smells true.

– KK

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Mein Krieg - My Private War
Directed by Harriet Eder & Thomas Kufus
English subtitles
1991, 90 min.
$180, DVD

Available from Amazon

Posted December 29, 2003 at 3:21 pm | comments
| in category History


Project Grizzly


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A Canadian outdoorsman who fancies himself a survival expert crosses the wrong side of a grizzly bear. The grizzly begins to attack him, but our hero stares the bear down, nose to snout, inches apart. In that moment of eye contact, our hero has a cosmic connection with the bear and vows to return to meet grizzly face to face again. But he’s no fool, so he decides to invent a grizzly-proof suit. For the next seven years he spends hundreds of thousands of dollars developing the whackiest series of full-body armour outfits, each one stronger, stranger, and more invincible, but less mobile. In an insane logic he tests the suits by having speeding trucks knock him down or by swinging half ton blocks of concrete into his head. In his obsession to face grizzly he becomes a deranged captain Ahab, and you are both horrified, uplifted and transfixed as you watch him sink. It’s captured for real; you couldn’t make this one up.

– KK

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Project Grizzly
Peter Lynch
1997, 72 min
$7, DVD

Watch film online at NFB.

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

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Posted December 27, 2003 at 2:55 pm | comments


Spellbound


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An amazingly spellbinding drama. You follow a dozen elementary school students who memorize the dictionary and beyond, practicing for years at all waking hours in order to spell words they — and you! — have never even heard of. Their ordinary parents are awestruck, the kids are driven, and the outcome is totally unpredictable. Only one kid will survive the National Spelling Bee. Will it be the one whose Indian parents have hired three foreign language coaches, or the girl whose dad does not even speak English? Or the boy with the stutter? It’s a fantastic journey into a subculture that is uniquely American, yet invisible and marginal. Since you are on the edge of your seat most of the film, it even changes your ideas about spelling.

– KK

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Spellbound
Jeffrey Blitz
2002, 97 min
$33, DVD

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

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Posted at 2:52 pm | comments


The Elegant Universe


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A crash course in string theory — the possible theory of everything. Fast-paced, crammed with high-street graphics and the best visualizations money can buy, this four-part Nova series does a fantastic job of making sense of something which inherently doesn’t make sense — as everyone in this show will tell you. Great pains are taken to keep things as simple as the honor of physicists will allow, and the host Brian Greene, physicist and author of the book of the same title, offers state-of-the-art explanations for weird ideas. I learned a whole lot. It’s the best science teaching format yet.

– KK

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The Elegant Universe (Nova)
Joseph McMaster, Julia Cort
2003, 180 min
$13, DVD

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

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Posted at 2:48 pm | comments


Dark Days


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The urban legend about cities of homeless living underground in the neglected corridors of New York City’s subways was partly true. For about a decade in the 80s, a colony of extremely resourceful hobos built shelters in an underground section of Penn-Central railroad beneath New York. They had stolen electricity and a few even had cold running water; many worked outside as can collectors or street vendors. and rifled garbage for uneaten restaurant food. This film documents their routines, their squabbles with each other, and their fight with the city to keep their plywood homes, filled with TVs, beds, and mini–kitchens. It’s a fight they lost. Homelessness, like everything else in life, is not uniform. These folks were exceptionally resourceful and ambitious, and the story follows them up as they leave their eccentric handmade homes to acquire subsidized housing.

– KK

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Dark Days
Marc Singer
2000, 88 min
$3, Amazon Instant Video rental

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

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American Movie


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Some people find this documentary depressing because it is about a man trapped by dreams larger than his resources. A 30-year-old slacker in a dead prairie town in Wisconsin dreams of making a horror flic. He has no money, no skills, no equipment, and no clue. Using beer money earned from delivery newspapers, he bullies his astoundingly drug-addled friends into acting while he ineptly directs, often getting his elderly mom to help out as incompetent gripper. These scenes are very funny. For years his film is only talk, while he lounges in front of a TV and fights with his girl friend in a trailer park or tries to wheedle money from his senile uncle. All riveting in their reality. You are utterly convinced his film will never be made. Yet scene by crazy scene, filmed in his kitchen or car over the seasons, he finally completes his non-masterpiece. When finished, his friends shrug like zombies. Was it worth the incredible determination it took given his situation? He is the only one who thinks so. I found his hurdles to be real, and his delusion of success inspiring.

– KK

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American Movie
Directed by Chris Smith
1999, 104 min.
$15, DVD

Official website

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

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No Maps


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Science-fiction author William Gibson is locked inside a limo and driven around several cities while he muses improvisationally on the twilight between present and future. Pure talking-head, with a seat-belt. But the bizarre imprisonment gives a good dose of Gibson, who is often at his best in conversation.

– KK

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William Gibson: No Maps for these Territories
Mark Neale
2000, 88 min
$16, DVD

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

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Posted at 2:38 pm | comments


Cool & Crazy


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Mild-mannered Norwegian bachelors living in a tiny fishing village north of the Arctic Circle find companionship and meaning in life by singing — always singing — especially in their local male choir. It’s fish, sing, or leave. Hoping to become world famous they travel to the depressingly polluted Russian industrial town of Murmansk to give a concert. It’s a lovely film about how one’s spirit can soar even when constrained by a dying small town. The title refers ironically to mild hopes and quiet lives of these bachelors of ice. Their music, surprisingly spiritual, fills the screen.

– KK

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Cool & Crazy
Knut Erik Jensen
2001, 89 min
$16, DVD

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Posted at 2:34 pm | comments


Bowling for Columbine


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Michael Moore searches America (and Canada) for an answer to the question of why there are so many gun murders in the US. As a card-caring, gun-toting NRA member Moore reveals this quest to be more complex than you’d might expected. Always the coyote trickster, Moore investigates with great entertainment, and does here what he does best, pressing hard when people try to squirm out of honest answers. For a subject that should be ponderously serious and somber, this is a subtle, surreal and funny trip, and one that can change your mind.

– KK

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Bowling for Columbine
By Michael Moore
2002, 120 min.
$3, Amazon Instant Video rental

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

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Posted at 2:22 pm | comments
| in category Investigative